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Gavin Newsom approves bill to loosen California’s rules on farmworker unionization votes



California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a labor bill on Wednesday that expands voting options for farm workers but that opponents say opens the door to election fraud.

Mr. Newsom’s office was quick to point out that he only approved the legislation after extensive talks with United Farm Workers and the California Labor Federation to iron out language concerning the security of union elections.

The final version of the bill removed the option for mail-in balloting but keeps a card-check process that would let people vote from home rather than at the work site.

Under a card-check system, workers succeed in forming a union if over half of them sign an authorization card.

“California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace. Our state has been defined by the heroic activism of farmworkers, championed by American icons like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Larry Itliong,” Mr. Newsom said.

The agreement with UFW and CLF includes a cap on card checks over the next five years and allows officials to improve worker-confidentiality protections, according to the governor’s office.

The new law also has a provision under which the looser election rules expire after five years unless lawmakers specifically renew them.

The California Farm Bureau, which opposed the bill on election-integrity grounds, said it was “deeply disappointed” in the governor’s decision, despite the removal of the mail-in ballot option.

This is the most significant piece of labor legislation passed by a California governor in the past decade, as Mr. Newsom and previous governors have vetoed similar legislation in the past.

Mr. Newsom has been outspoken about not supporting the bill, yet many political strategists say that President Biden’s Labor Day speech in support of the bill may have put significant pressure on the governor to sign.

“In the state with the largest population of farm workers, the least we owe them is an easier path to make a free and fair choice to organize a union. I am grateful to California’s elected officials and union leaders for leading the way.” Mr. Biden said.

Unionization efforts have sprung up all around the country.

Significant union drives are occurring in such new-economy employers as Starbucks, Chipotle and Amazon. The public seems to be behind these drives, with a recent Gallup poll showing support for labor unions at a near all-time high with 71%.

Unionization itself, however, is near all-time lows as just 12% of U.S. workers belong to a union, with a huge gap between the unionization rates in the private sector (7%) and among government workers (37%).





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